After a disastrous launch last year for Halo: The Master Chief Collection – a bundle featuring the first four Halo games and all of their multiplayer maps and modes for the first time on Xbox One – from the franchise’s new developer 343 Industries (Bungie parted ways with the Halo brand to create Destiny), the company attempted to shift attention to the next game in the series, Halo 5: Guardians, with a multiplayer beta on Xbox One over the holidays.
It was a way to get fans excited about the future of the series on Microsoft’s latest game console, but more than that, it was a way to quell fears from hardcore fans about the many changes and additions to the Halo series’ core gameplay mechanics that had been announced earlier in the year. From being able to look down the scope of every weapon and some major changes to movement, 343 was attempting to balance on a fine line with Halo 5 between honoring the traditional Halo experience and evolving gameplay to stay relevant in the genre. And they needed user feedback early to ensure they get these things right before the full game launches this fall. But what about the campaign? The story?
Game Informer unveiled their first post-E3 cover issue for July centered in Halo 5: Guardians, and the focus of their visit to 343 Industries was exactly that. 343 is expanding the Halo universe, not just in terms of the big picture, but down to the characters as well while bringing in familiar story elements and characters from the trans-media empire.
The Story of Halo 5: Guardians
“The goal was to try and redefine Halo for a new generation of players…”
The story of Halo 5 remains largely a mystery but the focus is on characters (plural!). The reason for an ensemble this time around is that Master Chief can only be taken so far, and since Halo 4 delved more into the Master Chief’s history, this time the devs want to use other characters as a lens to see the Chief from other perspectives. That’s where Halo 5’s other new protagonist, Agent Locke (Mike Colter), comes into play. Locke was the star of the live-action Halo: Nightfall web series, a 5-part story executive producer by Ridley Scott that filled in the gap between Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians.
The game includes new planets and other never-before-seen locations and the inclusion of two separate teams of playable characters on different missions allows the Halo 5 story to show more than any previous game. As for the main plot, all we know at this point is that something happens to Master Chief at the beginning of the story and his Blue Team (reunited for the first time in a game) goes AWOL as a result while colonies across space are under attack by… something. Whatever happens causes the UNSC to task Agent Locke with creating his own team of Spartans to track Master Chief down.
The Characters of Halo 5: Guardians
There are eight playable characters in Halo 5 but the focus is on Master Chief and Agent Locke. That being said, for the Halo diehards, Halo 5: Guardians is delivering big time on the established lore. Master Chief is joined in this game by his Blue Team schoolmates, all of whom shared a similar experience, kidnapped and forced into the Spartan program as youngsters. Their dialogue in the game is more than all of their other appearances combined, including the books and comics. Consider them to be Chief’s family. Most of the Spartan IIs have died over the years, some even as students in training, but these Spartan IIs lived because of their teamwork and survived the torturous and controversial UNSC program.
- Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 – The Halo franchise protagonist.
- Lieutenant Junior Grade Frederic-104 – the highest ranked and the team’s strategist and heart.
- Petty Officer Linda-058 – Quick-shooting, lone wolf sniper.
- Petty Officer Kelly-087 – Recon, deadly up close. Chief’s best friend.
Chief’s team is going to be tested for the first time together in a Halo video game here in Guardians when Locke’s Fireteam attempts to hunt them down. Now a Spartan himself as well, Locke has handpicked other Spartan IVs (these are dedicated, elite volunteers and not kidnapped kids like the IIs). The IVs have more advanced and computerized armor and equipment which evens the odds against the Spartan IIs who, in a scenario where none of these characters wore armor, would be far more deadly.
- Jameson Locke – A hunter on a mission for the UNSC.
- Holly Tanaka – From the Halo Escalation comics. Resilient. Survived a nuclear winter.
- Olympia Vale – Featured in upcoming Halo: Hunters in the Dark novel. Speaks Covenant languages.
- Edward Buck – Nathan Fillion’s character from Halo 3: ODST. Veteran Black Ops specialist.
Gameplay Changes of Halo 5: Guardians
If you didn’t participate in the Halo 5 multiplayer beta held at the end of 2014 or follow along with the updates since the game was unveiled, Guardians radically evolves the core mechanics of the Halo series. Most of the changes come down to enhancing natural movement. Players can sprint at the cost of not being able to recharge shields, and can now clamber and use a thruster to “float” in the air while aiming. There are also offensive abilities including Charge and Ground Pound, and all of these things are being tweaked since the beta.
The new exciting announcements are regarding the team-based campaign. Halo 5: Guardians not only lets players gain play through the story with up to four players, but this game is built as a four-character experience with the characters detailed above. Halo 5 supports seamless drop in and drop out co-op. Because of that, the game is taking some cues from Gears of War 3 in that it’s built from the ground up with four characters in mind and with AI that allows teammates to support you when not controlled by an actual human player. It was designed so the ally characters react naturally and dynamically rather than having them scripted. And yes, players can issue orders to their team as well.
There’s no LAN support though, no splitscreen support, and after clarifying an error in their interview, anyone who wishes to play co-op must have an Xbox Live account. You must pay Microsoft’s monthly subscription fee to play with anyone in any of the game’s modes. The game does come with a 14-day trial, but the messaging is clear – This is a game not meant to play with your sibings or having friends over, something that was special about the previous Halos.
For the hardcore Halo fans, 4chan has some leaked info on returning weapons and altered features, along with some new screenshots.